Passing away without a legally executed will in the UAE

Many articles have been written about the importance of concluding a legally recognized will, yet not much information is available regarding the process involved when someone passes away without having concluded a valid will. The following is a very brief outline of the most basic principles. Should you require additional information, we advise that you seek legal assistance.

What is Sharia law?

The principle of Sharia Law is based on traditional Islamic statutory provisions and regulates succession and inheritance matters. Sharia law makes no provision for the recognition of unmarried partners or stepchildren, and the risk of claims against one’s estate increases. The following scenarios are examples of how the division of an estate may occur per Sharia law:

1. Wife passes away:
In this scenario, the general application indicates that the husband will inherit the entire estate and maintain guardianship over any minor children at the date of death.

2. Husband passes away:
The general provisions indicate that a surviving wife shall receive only an 1/8th of the husband’s estate, while the surviving mother of the deceased shall receive a 1/6th of the deceased’s estate. Finally, the remainder of the estate will be divided amongst any surviving children, with sons inheriting twice that of a surviving daughter.

Who may apply?

Only an heir who has a vested right in the estate may become an applicant in a probate matter per Sharia law. 

What is the process?

1. The applicant will need to approach a lawyer to assist with the application process. 

2. The applicant be required to provide specific information related to the estate, as well as the death itself.

3. The matter will then be scrutinized closely before the application is made. Each matter is different and must be treated as such.

4.  The process whereby the estate division occurs is called the “probate procedure,” and involves ascertaining the value of the estate, and confirming the shares that need to be divided amongst the surviving heirs.

5. Once all details have been gathered, an application will be made to schedule a hearing. 

6. During the hearing, shares in the estate will be confirmed, and the court will issue a certificate to indicate the extent of shares to be divided and to whom the shares will be passing to. 


The final step in the process involves the enforcement of different court orders as they pertain to the estate itself. In other words, the assets and extent of the estate will have a direct affect on the final stage.

This is a general guide on the subject matter and should not be construed as specific legal advice.